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Reviews: Dvorak: Symphony Nos. 8, 9 - Cleveland Orchestra/Szell

Reviews: 3

Review by auld fellow July 9, 2006 (6 of 10 found this review helpful)
I just wish to correct a detail in the review that was originally posted here. These recordings date from 1958 and 1959. At that time, Columbia would have been using, at most, three-track recorders. 16 track machines were not available until about 1969!

I have not heard this particular SACD issue, so I will not be rating the sonics. I do have these performances on a good, recent Masterworks Heritage CD reissue and had them on LP earlier. These are tremendous performances of these works, especially the 9th symphony, which I consider to be one of the finest recordings Szell ever made with the Cleveland Orchestra. There is a flexibility and intensity to this rendition of the New World Symphony which you normally hear only in certain rare, live performances when everyone involved becomes inspired. The last movement, in particular, leaps out of the speakers with blazing intensity as Szell takes one interpretive risk after another--an pulls them all off. This has always been THE recording of this symphony for me.

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Review by freddie November 2, 2006 (5 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I must admit that George Szell has close to god-like status in my book. Sony's pairing of his justly-famous Beethoven overtures (with the Eroica symphony) were what attracted me to SACD in the first place almost five years ago. That being said, I still was not prepared for my own reaction upon hearing this astonishing disk - I openly wept for several minutes. It is THAT good! Sure, Szell takes risks, especially in the last movement of the ninth, but the whole thing holds together in a way that is very difficult to describe. There is insanely beautiful instrumental playing throughout these performances which may perhaps never be equalled again. Szell was at the very top of his incredible game here - and commanded what many then felt was the greatest orchestra in the world. This recording quickly shows why. The sonics are excellent, even though slight analog tape hiss is audible. This is a must-have.

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Review by Jonalogic July 18, 2010 (3 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I can only echo the other reviewers here. This is one of the immortal recordings. Great music, great playing - even pretty good sound!

I can't imagine these performances being surpassed. They really do put the Fischer recordings - good though they are - in their place. Never has the difference between 'good' and great' been so clearly displayed as here.

What's more, this is one of Sony's better transfers. It sounds clear, lucid and well-balanced. No, it doesn't sound as good as the miraculous Fisher offering on Philips/Channel Classics (that is state-of-the-art) but, with performances like this, it really matters not.

It's a pity that the equally great Dvorak 7 from Szell and the Cleveland sounds so poor- murky, thin and bloated; I can only assume the masters had deteriorated. What a pity!

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